Austria to restrict movement from Tyrol over variant fears

File---File picture taken Dec.2, 2020 shows Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaking behind plexiglass shields at a press conference at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria, (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)
File---File picture taken Dec.2, 2020 shows Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaking behind plexiglass shields at a press conference at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria, (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

VIENNA – Austria's leader said Tuesday that people will have to produce a negative coronavirus test to leave the country's Tyrol province as authorities try to prevent the spread of a coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa.

Some 293 cases of the more contagious variant have been confirmed in Tyrol. More than 120 of those cases are currently active, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. Concentrated in the Schwaz district, east of Innsbruck, they represent the biggest known current outbreak of the variant in the European Union, authorities said.

Officials in Tyrol initially resisted restrictions, but on Monday drew up a list of measures that included more police checks on mask-wearing and social distancing, and a requirement for negative antigen tests before people can use cable cars and ski lifts.

The federal government in Vienna also warned Austrians on Monday against traveling to the province — even as schools, shops, hairdressing salons, museums and zoos reopened across the country after a roughly six-week lockdown.

Kurz said Tuesday that for 10 days starting Friday, people wanting to leave Tyrol -- a popular skiing region which borders Germany, Italy and Switzerland -- will have to show a negative coronavirus test produced within the previous 48 hours.

Police, with support from the military, will enforce the new rule on the roads, Kurz said. He also called for Tyrol to act to ensure the variant doesn’t spread further within the province.

The measure won't apply to East Tyrol, a part of the province that is separated from Tyrol proper by a sliver of another Austrian province and Italian territory and is relatively unaffected, Kurz said. He said Friday was chosen as the start date to allow time for preparations and because a “mad rush and chaos” wouldn't be helpful.

People flouting the rules could face a fine of up to 1,450 euros ($1,745).